There is a huge planned disjunction between central Portland, Oregon which is becoming a strange jobless gentrified urban blight with every sort of mismanaged aesthetics planning and the more vital suburbs and outer areas of the city where most of the economic growth is. The city has an enormous budget it cannot afford plowing money into aesthetic organization projects rather than promote real job creation,real higher standards of living, health and safety and old fashioned public works where the benefits are actually public and not just another tax collection program which the Portland Water Bureau has become. The disjunction between relative success and failure can be seen instantly just as soon as you leave the urban core and find yourself in areas with self governance independent of the city of Portland. One thing you quickly notice is that people in the outer areas rely on private automobiles even when the city works to extend commuter lines out like an octopus. Car culture is healthy and productive both inside and out side of the city but the city is constantly working to undermine the benefits of the automobile. The closer you get to the urban downtown center the more the city attempts to make the automobile owner suffer. For years and years the city has worked in concert with transportation planners to promote mass transit plans which have never taken very many cars off the road but are supposed to do so. Unlike high growth developing countries like China and India one is supposed to feel guilty about having the means to drive an automobile in Portland. The city has consistently worked to make parking in and around downtown scarce and expensive. The city intentionally eliminates street parking spaces where they are most needed. They Put speed bump up everywhere where cars used to be able to get across town and they put islands in intersections that the fire department sometimes complains will cause delays getting to extinguish fires since the fire trucks cannot always easily speed though those intersections without almost stopping first to negotiate the stupidity of having a circus in a narrow street intersection. There are hundreds of these obstructions in the road. Add to that some idiot planner who thinks that curbs are more pedestrian if they eliminate parking at block corners and jut the curbs into 4 lane streets leaving narrow gaps of two lanes at intersections.
Leave the city limits and the car is king as always. The mayors of suburban cities are not as often heard quoting some study that says making parking scarce and expensive is a better solution than having enough parking as the market for it requires. Portland’s mayor is a version of Mary Mary quite contrary. He rather seems to prefer doing everything back wards or inside out just for the sake of being contrary. Prior mayors openly talked about the automobile going extinct. What a fantasy? Considering that electric cars that run on gasoline power are already on the market with much high gas millage than direct gasoline piston power there is no doubt that the automobile will survive and probably will soon be computer driven. Nuclear powered cars even steam powered or compressed air canister cars are also already viable alternatives . This anti automobile nonsense has gone on for years and years even when most of the city’s public transportation relied, as it still does on dirty diesel engines in automotive buses. Then a study came out will telling evidence that the mass transit lobby seems to leave out the replacement costs of equipment they have to buy and the energy costs involved in those decisions. It turns out that automobiles can be much more efficient than public transportation because of costs including energy costs of manufacturing and transporting these to Portland. One of the worst offenders is the Max light rail system. For some reason , mostly political pay back presumably to construction companies, is that these machines are imported at high cost from Europe and then the city puts fixed steel rails in the pavement at very significant cost of something like a million dollars or more a mile. Still buried under Portland asphalt streets are the ancient trolley car rails all of which could not compete with the automobile and the automotive buses that replaced them. When you see the streets dug up you see layers on top of layers of pavement going down to the old mud streets under cobble stones and brick work.
It is true that subsidized rates for taking public transit maybe cheaper than owning a car but that is no free lunch for tax payers. Absolute evidence that it is necessarily cheaper to use public transportation exclusively is not necessarily a fact. Try taking the max 4 kids and 6 bags of groceries, a family dog and wanting to make six separate stops without having to walk blocks and blocks between bus and train lines or wait hours more to get to all the destinations. Even the airport light rail train is under utilized probably because people with luggage are not well accommodated. The transit district has never considered allowing porters to ride or service the buses for the bags. The trip to the airport often takes longer than driving to the airport. Under utilization of that light rail line means it costs the public more, runs without enough passengers to reach their calculation goals and suffers from obsolesce without providing the kind of utility it was supposed to in the planning stages.
The parking mess in downtown Portland has been intentionally created and that is cause for the automotive to just star boycotting having much to do going there. Downtown Portland has become a sort of gentrified urban blight zone. That means everything is expensive and unnecessarily crowded because the planning department sees high density as the aesthetic solution to saving the world. It changes in phases. One year they artificially limit parking spaces and then the next they realize that more money can be made making more parking spaces in hard to get permitted pay lots. So the city really is acting like a parking cartel the same way OPEC artificially creates scarcity. That should be reason enough to boycott downtown and it’s businesses. Reality is the car makes all the surrounding areas of central Portland work. All the big industrial plants, including Trimet, the local public transpiration system rely on getting their workers there by automobile with large accommodating parking lots. All the streets in Portland are street parking lots cluttered with cars that are expected to move around as necessary. Why support businesses and entertainment facilities in the city when you can find pretty much the same thing outside of the city. If the city wants to create artificial scarcity at the expense of people who should find the city to be convenient, the way it used to be because the city needs to be competitive then there are good reasons to avoid it. Already the product of all the artificial scarcity is a jobless high cost place to live with all the amenities for sale and very little of anything of public fare for the value of taxes spent. The attitude is so bad and so against people driving cars that the city creates a needless daily traffic mess because for no good reason the city walls out big box stores that city residents and city construction workers need to visit. Traffic is bad. Costco, Home depot, Walmart, and all the usual big box stores have been intentionally kept out of central Portland. This accounts for traffic jams on the freeways at noon or giving the town a constant rush hour traffic jam all day long. It is yet another reasons besides more real employment to locate out side of city limits or just at the edge. At the edge you might be lucky to find very subsidized public transportation at your your door and not 4 to 10 blocks away. The City planners don’t care for the suburbs and actually believe they can use artificial scarcity to undermine them but there is no way anyone is going to build a major industrial plant with higher paying than average worker jobs at the city center. This is not just because of gentrified urban blight but because the planning process makes it next to impossible and the tax savings are better in the next county and out side this city limit and then outside the next. Exurbia is also something the city planners don’t care for but by creating artificial scarcity they are actually making the suburbs into viable new urban centers at the expense of the central city. Now the city has just gone bonkers using water bureau fee increases to water consumers to pay for absurdly stupid sewer systems that after earmarking special new fees for that monstrosity in urban nonsense they have started stealing money from the grand sewer boondoggle to put into million dollar per mile bicycle paths in the city. Yes the city soon plans to shut down major streets to automotive traffic and only allow bikes! This is the time to start boycotting businesses stupid enough to stay in the city and in Oregon for that mater because there is no long term good that will come of any of it since most of the cost benefit analysis used to promote this junk is based on pure aesthetics and absurdity and not on any practical basis. More people are just boycotting the city because of the mess there and not because of any organized boycott movement. It may time for a boycott movement because the city is wasting too much money they don’t have and won’t have in the future on what are already failed plans. One of the latest things the city wants to put a whole lot of money in is some building that is supposed to be the most sustainable green building on earth . Unfortunately it costs so much that it can never pay for itself the way the light rail may not be paying for itself that it will need subsidies for years to come as it turns into a gentrified urban blight masterpiece. You can look to the capital of North Korea to find something just as absurd, They built one of the world tallest building there in the shape of a sort of flat pyramid with no occupancy not even any windows. It may collapse someday for lack of maintenance and exposure to the elements. Its not the first time major urban aesthetic programs have resulted in waste and destruction of capital. Cities like Mexico City are littered with garbage buildings the government built that were never occupied but have a Utopian modernist look to them. Imagine having $400 per sq foot office space no one will rent in downtown Portland because they can rent outer non “sustainable ” space for $15 a sq ft instead across the street. Trimet public transportation has done the exact same thing with mass transit as having $400 a sq ft office space but hardly anyone notices! “Sustainable” is a code word apparently for the exact opposite? Downtown public transit systems have been such poor financial performers for the government that their dirty little secret is that they try population the city with highly subsidized welfare cases so that it looks as if more people take public transit than actually do. The program Portland has developed is to create low cost housing that they subsidize royally just to get people who get federal living expenses to make both failed mass transit systems and high density urban aesthetic living appear as if it is a great success. There is this mass of people who are permanently unemployed downtown now. If the city’s priorities are to subsidize everything, even gentrified condos with tax breaks and then subsidize a population just to make rapid transit planning look more successful than it is then maybe they should go back to subsidizing free parking on public streets and in publicly built and owned garages? Good reasons to boycott downtown as much as possible. Portland has become a multi-layered subsidized city as a gentrified bedroom community for the productive suburbs. Everything is more expensive in the city with rents reflecting the high cost of this upside down contrary government. One can find just about everything outside of the central city. The city explain that it has these great art and cultural resources. That too is nonsense. The city subsidizes the arts and the cost of enjoying them is double charged back to tax payers in high fees. The quality of arts and culture becomes political and shares the contrary attitudes of the planners so often is not even worth bothering with. Cable Television can bring more culture home to millions anyways than the inconvenient truth of dealing with the increasingly noxious city. Soon the city will probably be subsidizing the arts and culture venues for welfare people to make it seem as if they are more successful than they are the way they do it to public transportation. That would be theater. Operas for the homeless!
In spite of the political ethos that automobile is going away the facts are that the automobile will be here for ever more in one form or another. It already can run on many alternatives to gasoline including compressed air if necessary. The fantasy that Portland has of eliminating the car is completely absurd. People with cars should just boycott the center city to let businesses know we can park our nasty machines elsewhere with freedom and ease and maybe you should relocate your business to the suburbs that are increasingly worth driving to. Automatically drivers are avoiding Portland because it is becoming such an unnecessary hassle. For those living downtown who say just as well for us–good I hope you all can support all those businesses down there without the demographic value of the people who tend to drive cars and spend more.